Tuesday 20 February 2018

Bongaree's jetties

Bongaree's jetties - more from Bribie Island
by Phil Rickard

Cover of Light Railways
LR259 February 2018.
Light Railway Research Societyof Australia Inc.

The following article is from Light Railways 259 February 2018, pages 14-17.
Reprinted with permission.

   I was most interested in Rod Milne’s article on the Tramways of the Moreton Bay Islands (LR 251, Oct 2016) and, like Rod, I was rather amazed at the spindly jetty on Bribie Island, seen in the photo on page 19 of that magazine. However, I suspect its raison d’ĂȘtre has been mis-understood. There were actually two jetties at Bongaree – the one depicted, plus the ‘normal’ passenger jetty just a few yards away to the right, and out of the picture. The photo in LR251 was taken from the foredeck of the ss Koopa which was berthed at the passenger jetty.

Bongaree jetty, viewed from the ss Doomba. Note the three jetty approach walkways,
dating the photo to post-1926. The centre (original) jetty was built in 1912 and
fitted with a narrow-gauge tramway in 1913. The clothing seems indicative of the
mid-1930s however, note, under the awning, the hatless lady in smart white shorts,
bare legs, short-sleeve top and high-heels, rebelling against the fashion status quo

Photo source: State Library of Queensland image 6798-0001-0001
   The story of Bongaree’s jetties starts in February 1902, when James Campbell & Sons Limited were granted a Special Lease (SL 724) over 12 acres of land on the western side of Bribie Island, on Pumice Stone Channel as a wharf site.[1] The following year, in August, the Brisbane Tug Company Limited was formed; a partnership between three existing firms that undertook towage in the port of Brisbane – Gibbs, Bright and Company; Webster and Company; and James Campbell and Sons. George Peter Campbell was named as manager and secretary. In addition to undertaking Brisbane’s towage, the new company declared that developing excursion traffic would be a priority.[2]

   The new company’s three tugs were not purpose-built tug boats such as we know today, but vessels also capable of being used as excursion steamers. The ss Beaver (222 tons) was certified by the Marine Board to carry 400 persons on Moreton Bay or 700 in the Brisbane River, the ps Boko (203 tons) could carry 253 persons on the Bay and 506 in the river and the ss Greyhound  255 on the Bay and 450 in the river. As there was generally only enough work for two tugs at Brisbane it was clearly good business sense to use any spare vessels on excursion traffic.[3]

   The ss Greyhound was the preferred excursion steamer and little time was lost in diversifying its use. One unusual trip was for the Eight-hours’ Day holiday at the end of April 1904. At this time Bribie Island was bereft of a jetty or landing and very few people lived there. The Greyhound ran a ‘camping excursion’ to Bribie on Saturday 30 April and returned to pick up the campers and picnickers on the Monday. [4]  Transfer to the beach was done by boats. In July the Beaver became the first of the company’s vessels to receive its new colour scheme, “a green colour [Aberdeen green] . . . with a red band around the funnel”.

Enlargement of the land end of the temporary staging, showing a small heap
 of gravel, with skips above. Height to rail level is about 13ft; the sea end being 
some five feet higher. For full picture, see Light Railways No.251.  
Photo source: State Library of Queensland image APA-114-0002-0007
   In October 1904, the company announced that the Greyhound or Beaver would institute weekly excursions to “Redcliffe, Bribie Island, South Passage, Pile Light and other favourite resorts”; not that Pile Light, about eight km north-east of the Brisbane River entrance, in Moreton Bay, could be considered a favourite resort! All vessels had their passenger facilities upgraded around this time whilst the Boko had its funnel reduced in height and mast cut so it could get under the Victoria Street bridge in Brisbane, for up-river excursions. Electric lights were installed throughout and Moonlight trips proved popular in addition to the normal Day return trips. The ‘Tug Company’ had clearly tapped a latent market; holiday traffic, especially, was proving extremely popular.

   Towards the end of 1905 the company obtained a 21-year lease on an acre of land at South Passage, on the southern tip of Moreton Island, and proceeded to erect a jetty (261ft long, no tram) for the landing of passengers. Again, this proved very popular as the spot allowed access to a much sought-after ocean surf beach on one side or, on the eastern side of the point, a shallow tidal pool suitable for children. Other events that proved popular included special trips with cheap tickets for children and parents, company picnics, fishing excursions, inspection trips whenever visiting naval warships (Commonwealth, British, Japanese etc) were in the Bay, visiting military encampments at Lytton and the free use of vessels for charitable events such as raising funds for hospitals.

   In February 1911, in a business restructure, the Brisbane Tug Company was acquired by a new company, the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company Limited. The company’s issued capital was increased. George Campbell was appointed manager and secretary of the new company.[5] A key intention of the new company was to buy a fast, purpose-built pleasure steamer of large proportions, specifically for the Moreton Bay trade – in fact they had already been in consultations with a Scottish shipbuilder (Ramage and Ferguson, who had also built the Beaver in 1886) for many months. At the time, Brisbane’s population was about 150,000 and both railway and water excursions were big events, eagerly anticipated by all in the early years of the new century and a newly federated country. As much of the shoreline nearest Brisbane was tidal mud flats or mangroves, there was a growing demand for sandy ocean beaches and they could only be reached by steamer. This made trips to the various seaside resorts much sought-after by excursionists.

   Later in the year came the news that the new vessel, the ss Koopa (“Flying Fish”), had departed Leith, Scotland, on 17 October, and would arrive in Brisbane by the end of December. Such proved to be true, the Koopa arriving on Christmas Eve. The twin-screw steamer Koopa (416 tons) was built by Ramage and Ferguson Ltd, had a length of 192ft 6in, breadth of 28ft and draught of 6ft 6in.  She had two sets of triple expansion engines; cylinders 13, 21 and 34in diameter x 18in stroke, with steam supplied from two Scotch marine boilers. Top speed was 16 knots. Two decks for passenger accommodation were provided, the top, promenade, deck extending almost the whole length of the vessel. The lower, enclosed, deck had two main saloons. A kitchen, bar and confectionery kiosk were also included. The two funnels and the full-length covered promenade deck gave her a distinctive appearance.[6]

   After arrival, she was immediately put into service, running two well-patronised return trips to Redcliffe, a favourite beach resort, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. On New Year’s Day, 1912, even larger crowds were carried; on three legs of the two return trips to Redcliffe over 1200 people were on board for each journey. One month later, the Queensland government granted Special Lease No.1628 over 12 acres on Bribie Island to the company. Effectively, this was another continuation of the 1902 five-year lease which had been extended in 1907 for another five years, to 1912. A key difference this time was that SL 1628 was for 21 years (at £2 per annum) and required a “good and substantial wharf” to be built.[7] The purchase of the Koopa and the expansion to Bribie Island were clearly two key parts of the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company’s future plans.
Arriving at the Bongaree jetty; taken from the promenade deck of the ss Doomba, March  or April 1924. The temporary staging, to facilitate the import of stone and gravel for construction of the company’s private road, is clearly seen – with one skip visible – beyond
the passenger jetty. The ss Porpoise is largely hidden behind the jetty shelter shed. Three men  and the top of the skip being filled, can just be seen above the roofline. Compare with next photo.  The row of huts in the background were built by the Brisbane Tug Company and often referred to as the ‘Twelve Apostles’.  
Photo source: State Library Queensland image APA-114-0002-0003

The ss Porpoise at the temporary construction staging, at Bongaree in 1924, taken from the foredeck of the ss Doomba. The Porpoise is known to have been at that jetty in late March and early April when George Hallett got his fingers jammed in some machinery[1]. The Porpoise (125 tons) was built in Sydney in 1875. She was 103ft 8in long, 17ft 9in wide and 6ft 9in draught and had a 2-cylinder compound engine rated at 12hp. Purchased by John Burke Limited in 1908 for use as a coastal trader. Note the scoop fitted to the derrick, being used to transfer stone or gravel from her hold to the skip on the elevated staging.  A similar photo, but with the lighter Pirra (owned by T F Moxon), may be seen in the SLQ’s image APA-114-0002-0008.  

[1] Daily Mail, Bris. 29 Mar 1924; Telegraph, Bris. 4 Apl 1924
Photo source: State Library of Queensland image APA_114_0002_0004
   In mid-January the ss Koopa made the first of many trips to Bribie Island (it would serve the island until May 1953), though it could not land passengers as the company’s jetty had yet to be completed. By early May that deficiency had been rectified; Sunday the 12th is thought to be the first time the Koopa berthed at the new jetty at Bongaree. Bribie Island had arrived as a tourist destination, even if it was somewhat rural and rustic! It was good for picnics and camping, had a beach on the bay side of the island whilst an hour’s walk enabled one to reach the ocean surf beach. In early June the Koopa carried company shareholders and friends on a special trip to Bribie Island to view what had been accomplished. Luncheon was partaken on board whilst berthed at the new jetty and a band provided entertainment.[8] The jetty, constructed by Taylor Bros., well-known bridge, wharf and pier contractors of Bulimba, was 200 feet in length by 10ft wide, leading to a T-head 75ft x 16ft.[9] Previous to the Koopa entering the Tug Company’s fleet, excursions were usually suspended for the winter months but, with a purpose-built vessel now available, trips were run every weekend, even in the off-season and Bribie was usually the destination.

   In November 1912 the government declared the new ‘Town of Bongaree’ adjacent to the company’s jetty, conducted a survey and placed 100 blocks, each of one rood,[10] up for auction. These were eagerly sought after and most lots were sold at between £5 and £31 each, well above the upset price. Another sale followed in December 1913; prices ranged from £20 to £42. The price increases clearly showing where Bribie was heading. Further sales followed in subsequent years.

   Over the years the company made various other improvements at Bongaree – in 1913 they laid a narrow gauge tramway along the jetty and supplied a trolley for conveyance of luggage and stores, erected jetty railings, and a stylish shelter shed at the jetty head.[11]  Changing sheds and lavatories were erected at the beach for use of excursionists. Private enterprise provided a store and boarding houses and the company built a row of twelve huts along the foreshore, north of its jetty. These were quickly dubbed the ‘Twelve Apostles’ and appear in many early photos of Bongaree.

   In  early January 1914, the Queensland government granted the Tug Company’s secretary, George Peter Campbell, Special Lease No. 1862, for 21 years over a narrow strip of land across Bribie Island for the purpose of building a tramway.[12] The area, stretching from the jetty to the ocean beach, together with blocks at each end for termini, equalled about 58¼ acres. The rent was £2 per annum, for the first six years and subject to review thereafter.[13] It seems Campbell was embarking on a private venture. Unfortunately, the Great War intervened.

   In 1920, at the rent review hearing, Campbell advised that the original lease was obtained [signed?] on 31 March 1914. It was then found that the Minister for Railways had to give permission, a rather slow process. Then a London agent was needed to purchase the plant with Burns, Philp and Company eventually being appointed. They were arranging for the plant and material to be purchased from Belgium when war was declared, and advised Campbell to await the end of hostilities. The war was now over but the price of material was said to now be five [sic] times what it was in 1914. Campbell stated that he had had a survey made at a cost of £100 whilst also keeping a walking track open along the easement. He hoped plant would soon be available at a reasonable price so work may proceed. He was granted the same rent as that existing, £2 per annum for another six years.[14]

   Still events moved slowly. In early December 1922 tenders were called for the clearing and grubbing of the two-chain-wide easement.[15] By March 1923 this was subject to some industrial troubles over hours worked and the matter ended up in the Arbitration Court in Brisbane. The dispute was between the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company (confirming that, ultimately, the company was behind the tramway scheme), jointly with Queensland Employers’ Federation. Around ten men were engaged in the clearing work under foreman William Shirley. Though clearing work was completed by mid-May, the Tug Company had a reality check and decided to construct a roadway, rather than proceed with the tramway.[16] Railway material was proving expensive whilst road vehicles seemed to offer a less costly and more flexible alternative, considering the small distance to be traversed. Road work was well underway by September 1923, a visitor reporting a ‘lively scene’ with bullock team, grader and scoop at work.[17]  
Bongaree 1924. Temporary elevated staging. Passenger jetty on right with luggage
trolley just visible. Two skips are at the far end of the staging with Blake Bros’
International truck nearby. The Tug Company’s road stretches into the distance.
 What a great view the kids had from the swings outside the caretaker’s cottage!   
Photo source: VC8_118 Vera Campbell
photos / Ted Clayton collection, BIHS Historical database.

   As stone for the road (or railway had it gone ahead) was unavailable on sandy Bribie, it had to be imported. To this end, Blake Brothers, carriers from suburban Windsor, were engaged to provide gravel and stone. This came from Bowser & Lever’s quarry at Windsor and was trucked by Blakes to a wharf in Brisbane whence it was shipped to Bongaree by various ships and lighters. An elevated staging was erected using the rather slim paperbark piles visible in the photos. This staging was about 120 yards in length and had double track at the jetty head. Road metal and gravel was unloaded by the various vessels’ steam-powered derrick and a grab, into standard 2ft-gauge side-tipping skips. Photos show at least two, that being the reason for the double track at the head; whilst one truck was being loaded, the other could be wheeled ashore. There, the material could either be tipped to a heap or emptied directly into Blakes’ motor trucks for movement to the required site. If dumped, it was later reloaded via another couple of skips operating up a short ramp and emptied into motor trucks – the below photo shows the arrangement.
Adjacent to the gravel heaps at the base of the elevated staging (and hidden
in the other photos) was this reload ramp. A couple of skips would be filled
with gravel and hauled up a short ramp using a block and tackle, with a horse
(out of sight to the left) providing the motive power. One of Blake Bros’ motor
trucks will then be backed under the structure and filled. 
Photo source: WO9_888012 Blake Bros.
photos / Warwick Outram collection, BIHS Historical database.

   The ‘first-class macadamised motor road’ was virtually finished by the end of September 1924. Indeed, from late August (and even earlier – i.e. Easter, along much of the way) the Tug Company had been running a motor omnibus along their road at ‘one shilling per return journey’.[18] A month later the company hosted an invited party including the Acting Premier, William Gillies; various ministers and MLAs. After luncheon on the ss Koopa, the party drove over the new road to the ocean beach at Woorim.[19] With the road’s completion the temporary elevated staging was dismantled. It was said that the Tug Company had spent around £8000 on the entire venture. One journalist claimed it was the best road around Brisbane![20] Within a few months the company had three buses available along their private toll road. In December the Queensland government declared a new town – Woorim – at the ocean beach-end of ‘Campbell road’, and started selling lots.

   The Tug Company continued to improve and build additions on the island. In September 1922, at their instigation, the telephone was connected. Later in the same year they donated land for tennis courts to be constructed. On 24 November 1923, the company’s newest vessel, the ss Doomba – even larger than the Koopa, came to Bribie for the first time. In 1926, with the Bongaree jetty barely able to cope with the crush of passengers, two additional jetty approaches were constructed out to the T-head which was, itself, widened to 40 feet. Only the centre jetty (the old one) carried a tramway. Shelter sheds were added at the ocean beach, plus a life-saving reel. A bowling green was constructed at Bongaree; a water tank was provided with clean drinking water and, in 1929, a kiosk for the sale of oysters and seafood built near the jetty. By 1933 the company had carried more than one million excursionists to Bongaree.[21] Bribie Island was now one of the premier beach resorts around Moreton Bay, principally due to the foresight and drive of the Brisbane Tug Company and, specifically, G P Campbell.

Acknowledgements and references
My grateful thanks to Donna Holmes at the Bribie Island Historical Society for answering my numerous questions and freely giving of her knowledge of G P Campbell’s activities pertaining to Bribie, and providing access to the society’s photographs. The society’s interesting blog may be found at http://bribieislandhistory.blogspot.com.au/ and is well worth a visit.

[1] Queensland State Archives ID 24553
[2] The Telegraph, Brisbane 4 Sep 1903
[3] The Brisbane Courier, 3 Oct 1903
[4] The Brisbane Courier, 26 Apr 1904
[5] The Telegraph, Brisbane 4 Feb 1911
[6] The Brisbane Courier, 17 Oct 1911
[7] The Queenslander, 23 Dec 1911
[8] The Brisbane Courier, 5 Jun 1912
[9] The Brisbane Courier, 23 Apr 1912
[10] One Rood = ¼ acre [1012sq m]
[11] The Brisbane Courier, 31 Jul 1913
[12] Queensland State Archives ID 333167
[13] The Brisbane Courier, 10 Jan 1914
[14] The Daily Mail, Brisbane 18 Aug 1920
[15] The Brisbane Courier, 8 Dec 1922
[16] The Daily Mail, Brisbane 25 Jun 1924
[17] The Daily Mail, Brisbane 2 Oct 1923
[18] The Daily Mail, Brisbane 21 Aug 1924
[19] The Brisbane Courier, 1 Nov 1924
[20] The Brisbane Courier, 12 Sep 1924
[21] The Telegraph, Brisbane 4 Jul 1933

Thursday 15 February 2018

Evening at Bribie Island 1919

31st October 2015 marked the centenary of Bribie Island's most historic house, Coungeau House and the occasion was celebrated later that year with a function and entertainment.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was a recitation by Jan Cleaver of Emily Coungeau's poem "Evening at Bribie Island".  

Emily wrote this poem in 1919 at her home now called Coungeau House then called St. Osyth House by Emily after her childhood home. The poem was published in 1920 in Emily Coungeau's book "Rustling Leaves".

As you read these words, imagine Bribie Island as Emily would have seen it, over a century ago.


A precious draught of beauty where the leaves

For ever croon a tender symphony,

And in its bed as one who lonely grieves

Lies that big jewel, the enchanted sea.

Its facets, charged with liquid, living light,

Lapis-lazuli, jade, and molten gold.

Sobbing or dreaming of some wondrous sight

That never yet to mortal has been told.

Through the green boughs the wind now gently stirs.

And in your hair we see pale flowers blow,

Sheltered so lovingly by slumbrous firs.

Dear wood-anemones, how slim they grow,

The birds are singing in the cloud-flecked sky,

A magpie chatters to its distant mate,

A gorgeous butterfly flits joyously

From bloom to bloom on downy wings elate.

Hush! see unsheathed the velvet wings of night.

Purple and silver-stoled her soft limbs are;

We feel her presence ere her footfall light

Touches the earth, leaving Heaven's door ajar.

The air is steeped in heavy odorous scent,

The stars are broidered on celestial blue,

Soft, limpid eyes for countless aeons bent

Over earth's book to read the soul of you.

The moon has risen, the filmy mothwings pass,

A strange, new loveliness comes, silver-veiled,

Across the emerald carpet of deep grass.

The dew with diamond necklaces has trailed. . . .

Oh! cool, dim woods, unknown are yet your ways.

That yearn for eager eyes and hands to press.

What lotus flowers may dream long happy days

In the deep pools of your fair wilderness.

* * *

And did not Beauty clothe each living thing,

The man, the tree, the flowers, with breath divine.

Life had no song. . . Oh! Master, we must bring

Our tribute to Thy feet, for all is Thine.

Emily Coungeau
Bribie Island, 1919.

Bribie's Coungeau House 100 years old by Barry Clark. BIHS Blogspot, 5 December 2015

Coungeau, E. (1920) Rustling Leaves : selected poems. Sydney: William Brooks & Co., 1920.

Hooper, L. (2012) Emily (Howard) Coungeau 1860-1936.  Queensland History Journal v.21(10) August 2012, pages 688-702.